The Study of Man: The Golden Land
Over the years in the American saga, the Jewish immigrant has become a well-worn character. The dark chapters of his story are all too familiar—the enforced flight from Europe because of the terrors of persecution, arrival in America with dreams of a promised land, and then long years of frustration and unhappiness during which the first vision dims into utter disillusionment. In Yiddish literature, “the Golden Land” is a continually recurring phrase, but said almost always in irony or sadness.
Not only the novelists and amateur sociologists have contributed to this master-image of the American Jewish immigrant. Liberals, radicals, and Jewish nationalists have also found in the “tragic immigrant” grist for their ideological mills. That the bulk of the immigrants represented the embittered and defeated of the East European ghetto; that their subsequent experience in America led them only to a deepened awareness of inevitable, fundamental homelessness and insecurity—these are made to serve as historical “lessons,” pointing to some partisan millennium as the only salvation from a hopeless fate.
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